Str. Natchez River Relief Tour 2005 Weblog

In October and November 2005 the Str. Natchez tramped along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. for a Hurricane Katrina Relief Tour.

The tour was accompanied by a weblog, an online diary, on This ist the story of the Str. Natchez and her crew on this legendary tramping cruise. As it is a weblog, entries start with the last entry and are going back in time.

Pictures of the Natchez’ tour can be found in the end of this page.

The Grand Journey ends

The Natchez arrived at the Toulouse St. wharf this morning. She left Baton Rouge yesterday, laid up overnight at Audubon Park, and came in, calliope blazing, to her home base this morning. Debbie Fagnano was at the keyboard, as she has been since Natchez MS. Capt. Don Houghton said that all the TV stations were there, and he’s seen the coverage on the news already. There were several tourists on the wharf asking when they’d be going out on the next trip. They will run trips this weekend and then sporadically during December. The usually busy Sugar Bowl week around New Years will find the football fans in Atlanta this year, but the Natchez will run during that week, anticipating some non-football tourism business. Capt. Don reported that he was unable to communicate by cell phone or internet, even in port, on the lower river stretch, hence the dirth of information once she left the Ohio. They had good crowds in Natchez and Baton Rouge – even had a midnight charter in BR. This trip served many purposes: employing the crew, housing the crew, making some money, giving the crew/office staff a view of a totally different river and its environs, introducing the Natchez to some new communities, and giving everyone some pointers on what the Tall Stacks trip will entail. This was also the first time that Gordon Stevens was able to ride extensively and see what really goes on to make the boat function out in the middle of the river. (Remember those short rides down from the Worlds Fair site in ’84 when we all ‘looked busy’ polishing the chandeliers for 10 minutes, Gordon???) So all in all, it was a worthwhile effort. Thanks to one person seldom mentioned, and it was only his money that was on the line, to Capt. Bill Dow, for having the courage to let this trip happen. When I reached Capt. Don tonight, he was in the process of settling into his new ‘home’, a travel trailer that a friend loaned him and had set up in his driveway for his return. See you all in New Orleans on the Natchez!!!

judy | November 23, 2005

Communications wasteland

Since leaving Paducah, the Natchez has been traveling in areas mostly unserved by cell phones and internet communications. She should be in Vicksburg today. Keith and I did receive brief emails from Capt. Don yesterday. There was rough weather around them, but presumably none of the tornados which cut across the midlands. Today is Vicksburg, Friday Natchez MS, and the weekend at Baton Rouge. A Tall Stacks note: because many of the boats, including the Natchez, will be running breakfast trips, they will not have the Passport boat tours as in the past. So if anyone wants to visit the Natchez or Belle, or any boat, it will have to be by ticket for a cruise.

judy | November 16, 2005

Carol Channing, Greg Menke

Celebrety sighting on the Natchez

Greg Menke reports: We had a famous person on the Natchez while she was in Paducah. Miss Carol Channing was in town to perform and she stopped by to see the boat.

franzneumeier | November 12, 2005

Paducah PSes

After a night’s sleep at home, I realized I had left out quite a bit in my Paducah posting. That wonderful experience can never be completely documented, but here are some more items I remembered: .Orgers John and Carol Mullen rode the first trip and visited with me for a spell during the cruise. Since I was up in my perch in the Gift Shop, I didn’t get to roam about the boat, so I didn’t see Carol Channing, nor any other .orgers. If you were aboard, sorry for the omission. I previously mentioned the willingness of so many people to pitch in – yet another is John Shoup, who is the manager/producer for the Dukes of Dixieland. He had been trailing the boat on the Ohio and was responsible for the appearance of the Pfister Sisters, Luther Kent and I believe the chefs who gave the cooking demonstrations. He also supplied the Gift Shop with some of their cookbooks. A Hotard bus(Gray Line) is following the boat, carrying the musicians and female crew members, who stay in local hotels. One souvenir which I salvaged was a shipping label for some souvenir items:”Capt. Kevin Mullen, Steamer Natchez” Kevin graciously allowed Fed Ex to deliver some supplies to the Belle to put on the Natchez. He also gave Ken contact info for some of their distributors so some replenishments could be made in the shop. The Gift Shop was stocked with everything they had in NOLA. Most of the items with ‘Natchez’ on them are sold out now, other than shirts and sweatshirts, so it will be souvenirs of NOLA on downriver. Capt. Bill Wilson has been following the boat with a company truck, which is used to haul supplies and garbage UP the levee. Remember, most of these crew members aren’t used to inclines… I heard one talking about the ‘mountains’ along the Ohio. The city of Paducah is one which appreciates its river, past and present. They have a constant flow of traffic driving along the levee, people on lawnchairs and benches socializing along the levee, and a nice riverfront park extending from the levee to the hotel. Of course, the Dafford floodwall murals are fantastic, and there is a River Heritage Museum next door to the Seamen’s Institute. A great town to visit for a river rat. Since the ’82 Race, the Natchez has carried the nickname of “The Racehorse of the Western Rivers”. Perhaps a secondary nickname could be “The Silver Bullet”, in honor of the fuel firing the crew on the travel days.

judy | November 12, 2005

Emotionally Exhausted, or Pooped from Paducah!

It was a ‘reverse Apprentice episode’. As I walked up the gangplank Tuesday night, Gordon Stevens greeted me with, “You’re hired!” I didn’t know I had applied! I had driven down intending just to ride and visit, but turns out Ken LaPorte’s faithful sidekick Suzy was leaving for a couple of days and they needed someone else for the Gift Shop.

(picture by Greg Menke).

Its been 11 years since I worked in there, but I found I can still hit 2 buttons at once on the register, causing an overring! Incidentally, the reason Suzy left was that her son was getting married and it seemed the proper thing to do to be in attendance at that event. She was scheduled to return at Memphis, but I’m sure she’ll find her way to Greenville instead. But it was a fantastic ‘reunion’ with my NOLA family and home. To hear the calliope tooting AND the Dukes booming on the speakers simultaneously might have been cacaphony to most, but to me it was the wonderful sound of Life back on the NATCHEZ. And when I slipped away from the Gift Shop momentarily to check out the dining room, what a sight to see it full of passengers dining and enjoying performances of the Pfister Sisters and the Dukes. As was noted on the message board, Mr. Calliope, Travis, had to be on his deathbed or near it to miss playing a concert, but as luck would have it, Paducah is the residence of one fine calliopist, Capt. Greg Menke. He stepped up to the keyboard in the cool, no, cold breeze and played 3 concerts Thursday. Pinchhitters were also needed in Food and Beverage as several of the great B&B crew headed back to Cincinnati after Evansville. Fortuitously, Gordon Stevens’ sister lives in Paducah and was able to find several people to step in for that stop. The crew and office staff are truly overwhelmed with the reception they’ve been getting and the willingness of people to help out in any way possible. I’ve assured them to count on the many volunteers from .org too when Tall Stacks time comes, as we’re more than willing to do whatever for PR, errands, etc. Before the boat had come into sight Tuesday night, I had received two calls from the pilothouse, both shopping lists of items needed from WalMart. With Wednesday being a day off, my car was able to go on autopilot to the WalMart by the end of the day, as many crew members took their first opportunity to shop ashore since the trip started. The Natchez arrived in Paducah at 8:30 PM Tuesday and landed at the upper end of the levee. The MQ was due in Wednesday morning, so their regular space was left open on the lower end. She arrived a bit late, and as I was standing on the levee watching her approach, a caller on my cellphone asked, “Judy, is that you standing on the levee?” It was PT on the MQ. So, cookieless – they had all been delivered to the Natchez the evening before- I went up for a brief visit with Capts. PT and Bobby Powell, and got some great shots of the Natchez from the MQ wingbridge. Of course, the first-time-ever opportunity of photographing the 2 1975-built steamboats together on an old-fashioned levee was not passed up. After the MQ departure, it was more WalMart runs and visits on board the Natchez. 6 of us went over to Whaler’s Catch for seafood dinners, in place of the usual Mike Anderson’s meal in NOLA. A good time was had by all. Unfortunately Capt. Steve Nicoulin couldn’t join us as he stayed back to protect the boat in the name of Homeland Security…most of you know the overzealousness of that in Paducah…Thursday: Cruise Day. All the inflatable air mattresses, bedding, and personal items have been stashed away and the vessel returns to her excursion boat appearance. This day is sunny, but brisk, in fact 30 degrees cooler than when they landed Tuesday night. Some hardy souls sat out on deck, but most stayed in the dining room area except to visit the Gift Shop or take a quick stroll about the decks. A special passenger was aboard – Carol ‘Hello Dolly’ Channing. She had spoken to the Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday and Capt. Greg and Gordon invited her to visit, which she did. This blog has gone on too long already and I still haven’t been able to express my feelings correctly about how wonderful it was to be taken in and to be part of this wonderful steamboating family. As of today, Capts. Steves Nicoulin and Villier are on the boat for 72 consecutive days, and are looking forward to getting their FEMA trailers set up in their driveways so they will be able to work on rehabbing their homes.As I drove home on I-57, I passed many trailers made in Elknart, headed for NOLA, wondering if I might be looking at the future Captains’ Quarters… The spirit of everyone is so amazing – it shames me to even think about complaining about my insignificant problems. If anyone has doubted whether or not the Natchez would be back, SHE IS! This was a most uplifting 3 days I experienced – THANKS GANG!

judy | November 12, 2005

Str. Natchez at Paducah

Keith Norrington reports: Judy just called from Paducah to report that a decision was just made to cancel all of the cruises at Memphis for the Str. NATCHEZ. Apparently, the ticket sales do not warrant a stop and they are considering other options at the moment.

Sharon Reynolds had just e-mailed me that she has been doing all kinds of PR work in Memphis on behalf of the NATCHEZ, encouraging friends to buy tickets for the cruises and she’s also been contacting television and radio stations, but receiving minimal response. A large half-page ad was also seen in the Memphis newspaper.

Judy will be “the gift shop lady” aboard the NATCHEZ during her Paducah cruises. It’s an understatement to say that she is thrilled to be back on her beloved boat after a long absence. There has been great publicity at Paducah, due largely to the gracious assistance of Capt. Greg Menke and other river people. Nothing beats “The Sternline Telegraph”!

franzneumeier | November 9, 2005

Evansville cruise report

Report from John: Just got back from the 2:30PM brunch cruise…it was great!! I’ve been on the Natchez in N.O., but never got to ride her. I have now cruised on all six of the steamboats.

My kids really enjoyed the cruise. My two daughters were dancing to the calliope music for the short time it played and both really enjoyed watching the paddlewheel and getting wet from it’s spray. I was pleasantly surprised by the fairly large crowd for the cruise. I was also surprised at the access to the engine room and other areas for passengers. That is a rare treat since 9/11.

Anyhow, just wanted to say the trip was great as was the boat and crew. I am back at work now and listening to the calliope as they prepare to board for the 7:30PM cruise.

franzneumeier | November 7, 2005

Just what they needed!

On this Hurricane Relief Tour, the Natchez just encountered a tornado as she was in the Evansville harbor. The brunt of the storm was upriver, heading toward Newburgh, but the hail and high winds forced them to drop on downriver some before landing in Evansville. All is well on the boat, but the community was hit hard in several places, so business may not be what it could have been. They have no cruises scheduled today. There was a delay at the Newburgh lock, two actually, one to gain lockage and a second to wait for a windblown tow to straighten out away from the exit. This may have been for the best, as otherwise she would have already been secured to the LST and would have received a lot more wind and hail.

judy | November 6, 2005

Enroute to Evansville

Report from Matthew Graham, oiler on the Str Natchez: We are currently enroute to Evansville, Indiana. We set out this morning from Louisville a little after 6am. I must say I was sad to leave as is the rest of the crew. We recieved such a warm welcome from all of the people there. But we must travel on. This morning we were privileged to a beautiful Kentucky sunrise that really made the bright orange red and yellow leaves glow. I’ve never seen anything like that before. So far we’ve made two locks and are currently passing what I am told to be the Owensboro Riverport at 9:15pm. Capt Nichoulin says we should make Evansville around 1am. we look forward to our next stop and I can’t say how proud I am to work for such a unique company. We thank all of you folks for your help and support and we’ll see y’all down the river.

franzneumeier | November 6, 2005

Leftovers from Louisville

N.O. Steamboat Co. President Gordon Stevens has been with the boat since Cincinnati. He, Capt. Don, and others took in the Howard Steamboat Museum Friday. Calliope Keith just happened to be there with Dave Tschiggfrie, so the visiting Natchez group got a basement-to-attic tour of the mansion. Gordon did take time out this week to visit Cincinnati and finalize the contract for Tall Stacks. One of the main reasons the Natchez has never participated is that October is the busiest month for conventions and charters in NOLA. Obviously this business will still be down next year, so its the perfect chance to be a part of Tall Stacks. Dave T. came over from Dubuque Iowa and stayed at the Norrington B&B. He got voluminous amounts of video of his host at the keyboard, from all reports. I did have the chance to hear a bit of Keith’s playing, as Capt. Don phoned me during the boarding concert Thursday. Keith reports that Ken and Susie have the Gift Shop stuffed with goodies, so if anyone is yet to cruise, bring some extra cash for Natchez souvenirs. I suspect the Louisville Slugger Bat race trophy was the work of Ann Jewell, who when working for the Belle, coauthored that wonderful Belle book with Capt. Kevin Mullen. Ann is now the executive director of the Louisville Slugger Museum in downtown Louisville.

judy | November 5, 2005

Natchez wins again!

Frank Prudent reports from Louivsille, photo by Jim Reising.

The NATCHEZ this past evening kept her fine distinction of never having lost a race with another steamboat, or diesel boat for that matter. This twilight event had the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE taking the early lead, but soon being overtaken by the fleet NATCHEZ.

This race will long be remembered as being a photographers delight with a crimson and blue sky for the backdrop and mild temperatures as these two great steamboats battled it out for the coveted Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat trophy, a new symbol of river supremacy!

Capt. Alan Bernstein, Capt. Alan Bates, and Ann Jewell were the somewhat sober judges who gave the nod to the NATCHEZ as being the uncontested winner of this spectacular. I might add that an aura of controversy does surround this extravaganza though! Several notable steamboat officers long associated with the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE were seen onboard the NATCHEZ before and reportably during the race. Chief Jim McCoy, Capt. Pete O’Connell, and Capt. Mike Fitzgerald all freely admit to having been there although their reasons why have not been divulged. While on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE the NATCHEZ’s alternate master Capt. Don Houghton was seen coercing the BELLE’s calliope player to render “The Bonnie Blue Flag” on the steam and iron piano.

On the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE Capt. Mark Doty was captain, Capt. Kevin Mullen represented the office along with the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE’s new C.E.O. Linda Harris, Capt. Jamie Donahough, pilot and Chief Steve Mattingly, engineer. Also seen aboard the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE was Capt. Angela Shakelford the first mate of the DELTA QUEEN; she was enjoying just being a steamboat passenger before she returns to the DELTA QUEEN on Thursday. The BELLE truly is the little boat that thinks she can, she thinks she can…

Captain Robert J. Hammett and Chief Bill Prudent were there in spirit. Sic transit gloria mundi.

franzneumeier | November 3, 2005

Honorary Captain

As I noted earlier I took my daughter Alainah on the Natchez last Sunday. When I arrived to pick her up I asked her if she remembered where we were going. \”On the NATCHEZ, and she is a real steamboat!\” she said as she jumped up and down. She sure was excited. As she walked the decks and even toured the engineroom I could see her wonder and awe of the boat. Daddy I want to go to the Captains room! Captain Don was so gratious to take us up to the wheelhouse. Alainah wanted to sit in the \”Big Chair\” and take a picture but was shy. Capt. Don said, after we dock bring her up and then we will take a picture. As you can see by the photos she was excited to do so. Captain Don even made her an honorary Captain and she has a certificate to prove it! Captain Don was so friendly and accomodating and it just reminded me of how family oriented and caring the New Orleans Steamboat Company and crew of the NATCHEZ and JJA are. After all isn\’t that what it is all about? Last night I talked to Captain Don on the eve of the race against the Belle of Louisville and he told me how The other officers, Capt. Steve Nichoulin, Capt. Steve Villier and Mate Bob Heyn were all spending time with family. He mentioned how Gordon Stevens (President) has been so caring and occomodating toward the crew and their families that it just warmed my heart. Again I thank Capt. Don, both Capt. Steves, Mate Heyn and Gordon Stevens for their big hearts and for touching my heart as well as your new Honory Captain, my daughter Alainah Wirtjes. Thank all from Christopher Wirtjes.

christopher | November 2, 2005

Natchez arrived at Louisville

Keith Norrington reports: The Str. Natchez came “round the bend” at Six Mile Island around 6:30 P.M. Tuesday evening and steamed down through the Louisville harbor with grace and grandeur. Aglow in lights, she rounded to on a dime, blew a landing whistle (in the cool night air those whistle blasts were wonderfully spine tingling!) and with Capt. Bert Suarez in the pilothouse and Capt. Steve Nichoulin on the bow, landed as perfectly as a kitten and was all fast at 7:00 P.M. Capt. Pete O’Connell, of the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, caught the headline and Kadie Engstrom, longtime member of the BELLE crew/staff was there along with my parents and me. Several of the local television stations showed up and there was good footage on the newscasts last night and this morning. I was happy to visit briefly with Capt. Don Houghton and Mate Bobby Heyn, whom I haven’t seen in quite some time. I’ll be heading down there this afternoon (leaving my office at noon) to play the cally-ope for the race with the BELLE this evening and for the trips tomorrow. Perfessor Travis will preside at the steam organ on Friday, but I’ve purchased tickets for Friday and I’ll be there to visit with friends and to do whatever I possibly can to help in any way.

franzneumeier | November 2, 2005

A special flag on the Belle of Louisville

News from Capt. Kevin Mullen from the Belle of Louisville:

When the Belle of Louisville defends her turf here in Louisville racing the Natchez, we will be flying the American flag that graced the casket of our great friend and Belle/Natchez Chief Engineer Bill Prudent. The flag was flown once last spring during the Derby Festival Race with the DQ.

I would like to also dedicate flying this flag to our friend, teacher and mentor of so many of us on the Belle and Natchez,Captain Roddy Hammett.

I am sure that Bill and Roddy are looking down on this event with big smiles. Roddy always said that the Belle always reminded him of the Little Train That Could with “I think I can,I think I can.” The same thing can be said of the crews of the Natchez and the New Orleans Steamboat Company.

franzneumeier | November 2, 2005

Natchez just passed Lamb, Indiana

I just looked at Steve Huffman’s webcam with a view from the Loretta Howard looking aft, and there she is: The NATCHEZ passed Lamb, Indiana, Ohio River mile 545.9, today at 1:21pm.

franzneumeier | November 1, 2005

Natchez at Rising Sun

Don Sanders reports the NATCHEZ saluting the Grand Victoria 2 as she passes Rising Sun on Tuesday, 1 November 2005 at 9:15am on a wet day in the Ohio Valley.

franzneumeier | November 1, 2005

Chris’ Victory picture

From left to right in Chris’ picture of the trophy ceremony: Capt.Alan Berstein of the Belle; Natchez officers Capt. Don Houghton,Chief Scotty Viegas, President Gordon Stevens, Capt. Steve Nicoulin, Capt. Finley Fraser, Chief Juan Mendevil, Capt. Steve Villier.

judy | October 31, 2005

Race Report from Cincinnati

Report and picture (click to enlarge) from Christopher Wirtjes: Back in 1982 I was fireman aboard the Str. Natchez when she tramped upriver to Louisville for the Great Steamboat Race against the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen. Of course the Natchez won. Today I was onboard the Natchez for the race against the Belle of Cincinnati. The chant back in 1982 was “Knowbody matches the Natchez” still holds true today as the Natchez won the race!
I have to admit at first I was a little concerned, having worked both boats I knew what they could do and I knew that the Belle of Cincinnai was fast off the starting line. The cannon shot and the race began with a cheering crowd! Shortly after I could feel the Natchez getting her stride. You can feel the rhythm of the boat as she charges forward from the bucket boards slapping the water all the way up on the Texas deck. I knew they were puting the steam to her.
The calliope serenaded us on the cool sunny morning. What a beautiful day. I was in heaven.
As we rounded up for the home stretch I was concerned as I thought that the Belle of Cincinnati with her hydraulic paddlewheel, bowthruster and twin screws would have the advantage coming around. Of course all the Natchez has is her true paddlewheel and electric bowthruster. I was impressed as through careful planning and navigation the Natchez came around quickly and ran for the finish! At that point the Belle hadn’t a chance. I think that Capt. Steve and Capt. Don did show a little mercy and cut her back to “tease” the BOC and let her gain, but at the finish I know they ran her all out at the finish.
The whistle is music to my ears. Hearing the whistle and calliope echo when passing beneath the bridges sends a chill down my spine! Last I talked to Chief Scotty and he was beaming and told me how he got 22 1/2 RPM out of the wheel at almost 14 MPH! How exciting!
After we returned to the dock alongside the BOC Capt. Alan went to the dinning room along with the all of the Natchez officers and presented the Natchez crew with their trophy, a large engraved “crystal I believe” mug and in keeping with the tradition of the antlers, presented the Natchez with a mounted set of small baby antlers! That was typical of the unending good humor that Capt. Al always presents. Captain Alan Berstein, Captain Nichoulin and Gordon Stevens all said truely heartfelt speaches and their sentiments made me truely proud to be in the presence of such humble, gracious men. I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that Capt.
Alan Bernstien and the crew members from BB Riverboat have supported and helped the New Orleans Steamboat Co. and crew with much support and even help with supplying additional needed crew members to work the Natchez! As Gordon Stevens said in his speach in quoting the song “Proud Mary”, “People on the river are happy to give”. That is not more apparent here than with BB Riverboats and the New Orleans Steamboat Company in their Katrina relief tour. And the tour has only just begun.

franzneumeier | October 30, 2005

Natchez wins Race against Belle of Cincinnati

Great picture from Bryan Oliver (thanks!!) and the brief report “The Natchez won easily.”

franzneumeier | October 30, 2005

Sunday morning phone call

I just received a pre-race phone call from the bow of the Belle of Cincinnati. Capt. Joy Manthey, who is piloting the Belle, had Capt. Troy C. Delaney, Natchez pilot/mate with her. Capt. Troy is the most voracious cookie eater on the boat, its own Cookie Monster. Naturally he was concerned that he hadn’t seen me at any of the locks or there in Cincinnati, considering my habit of delivering cookies at locks. I assured him a supply would be awaiting them in Paducah, where it will hopefully be less hectic. Besides, I’ve been baking for the MQ, the Belle of Louisville,and the Howard Museum – can’t be everywhere at once. Capt. Joy mentioned something about the race trophy being engraved already, prior to the race – didn’t say what name was on it, but considering the Natchez’ perfect record….

judy | October 30, 2005

Pictures from Cincinnati

Here are two great pictures Bryan Oliver just sent from the Natchez’ excursion today. Thanks Bryan for the wonderful pictures!
(click on the pictures to enlarge)

franzneumeier | October 29, 2005

Not an idle Friday

Chief Chris Wirtjes had a great posting about his visit today on the Natchez. I’m sure he was a welcome sight to his many friends in the crew. They had another distinguished guest today also, Lawrence Larry Walker, of Cincinnati. Larry has made all the acorns that adorn the Natchez from her beginning (save the Queen City one which used to be perched atop the roof bell, from Doc’s collection). Larry and his wife Ethel and their compadre Dorothea Frye made yearly visits to NOLA in October and Larry got enough time in between the sticks, he could have gotten his first class license in that harbor. Larry was overwhelmed by the greetings he received from the crew today, but he is truly an original, and always a part of the Natchez. Its been 10 years since he set foot on board, but he said the boat looked as fine as ever (save for the Pepto Bismol pink dining room bulkheads), but even those can be overlooked at a time like this! One crew member whom I’ve left out, but Chris duly reported in his posting, is Capt. Steve Villier, usually the captain of the John James Audubon, but now with the Natchez tramping crew. The JJA spent a weekend up in Natchez MS. at a hot air balloon festival, prior to his joining the big boat for this trip. Judy

judy | October 29, 2005

Covington Points of Interest

Tom Schiffer reports about sightseeing sonts in Covington and the Belle of Cincinnati and Natchez race:
The racer NATCHEZ (1869) was born on the marine ways, just up the river a bit in the east end of Cincinnati (Dale’s territory). Captain Leathers of the NATCHEZ was from Kenton County, Kentucky (there is still a Leathers Road out the “Lexington Pike” (Dixie Hwy) about three or four miles from Covington. You have a LOT to see if you come to see the and/or ride the NATCHEZ this weekend. The leaves are turning and the floodwall art is mostly finished and is worth a trip for that alone. The NATCHEZ is located at the BB Riverboats dock at the foot of Madison Ave (main drag a couple of blocks west of the Suspension Bridge). If you go, you can see the floodwall art by taking a short walk east along the river side of the wall…just a few yards from the enterance to the dock all the way up to the Suspension Bridge. There is parking on the street and on the river side of the floodwall from the MIKE FINK on down near the BB Dock, plus parkeing garages VERY near. I think BB has valet parking too. A walk around riverside drive to see Commodore Laidley’s house (Louisville & Cincinnati Packet Company) and other mansions is well worth while. Lotsa places to dine… You can do it and see the river (you’ll be on it) from the MIKE FINK restaurant(nee CHARLES DORANCE sternwheel towboat etc). The NATCHEZ looks great and the crew seems first class and friendly. Allen Bernstein’s BELLE OF CINCINNATI is a FAST boat but it will be a stretch to keep up with the NATCHEZ in the race on Sunday.

franzneumeier | October 28, 2005

Natchez at Covington

Tom Schiffer just send pictures from the Natchez at Covington. Thanks, Tom! Here is his report:
Here are some photos of Natchez, taken this morning in Covington, opposite Cincinnati…one from the Suspension Bridge. Note that she is moored outside the BELLE OF CINCINNATI. There are still plenty of signs of “living on the road” in most parts of the boat…cots, bunks etc everywhere.

franzneumeier | October 27, 2005

A Tour of the Natchez

It has occurred to me that many of you will be riding the Natchez for the first time, so I’d like to take you on a tour of her, deck by deck. Keep in mind I’m telling you the way it is set up in New Orleans. There might be some minor changes on this tramping trip. In NOLA, boarding is on the boiler or second deck, and hence that’s where most of the facilities are. It appears that Evansville will board on this deck, but the other locations will board on the Main or first deck. Keep in mind there is NO ELEVATOR. From Bow to Stern: On the MAIN DECK: stairs on bow;deck crew locker room on starboard, mate’s office on port; Magnolia Suite – a private party room seating about 50, standing 150. This might be used for public dining since indoor seating is limited and the weather will be cool; Boiler Room – both boilers are new within the past 5 years, no public admittance, will probably see some crew members huddling in there for the warmth; stairs; ladies room starboard, mens room port; galley – in NOLA all the food is prepared on board here. I think they might be having some catered, but not sure. Normally 6-8 galley crew; Engine Room – a wonderful place to visit, lots of diagrams, charts, and photos explaining the steam machinery which came off the towboat Clairton. Watch the 3 rudders being moved on the indicator; paddlewheel – walk up that wonderful sheer to the fantail to see the 26 tons of white oak and steel that form the wheel. The pitmans are from the Clairton, as is the shaft. Outdoor seating available on whole deck.
BOILER DECK – the entire interior cabin is air conditioned/heated. This is the dining room, seating 168. Walk around and look at the Blaser paintings and the historical steamboat photos. Stairs on both sides; Just past the midship doors are the restrooms, ladies on port, mens on starboard; serving area; Main Bar on starboard; dance floor/band. Most likely the Dukes will perform inside from here, but their music will be heard on the outer decks too; outdoor seating on whole deck; HURRICANE DECK – most of the outdoor seating; 2 wing bridges from which Capts. Steve and Don will call orders to Capts. Finley and Bert in pilothouse; stand on one end and note the wonderful sheer Alan built into this boat. Cross the bow or stern and feel the camber too. 4 sets of stairs; TEXAS DECK – Texas Bar, with seating for about 20; pilothouse entrance, Captain’s Cabin, both off limits;ladies room port side; Gift Shop – normally chips and candy bars are sold there along with souvenirs; outdoor seating under canopies; ROOF – pilothouse, calliope, and life rafts. Be aware that if you want to take pix of the calliope, you’ll have to do it from shore, as the canopies block the view up to the roof. The Natchez holds 1600 people. I’m quite sure that number won’t be approached, so don’t just grab a seat and sit there the entire trip – explore this gem, a real steamboat! Built in 1975; 265x44x5. Stacks now extend about 62 feet from waterline. Tandem compound horizontal engines, 7 foot stroke; 3 rudders forward of wheel, no monkeyrudders; one weak bowthruster; NO props or power other than the paddlewheel. Roof bell from towboat Str. J.D. Ayers (not Queen City) Flags which normally fly from roof in NOLA: US, N.O. city, Spanish and French. Under command of Capts. Steve Nicoulin and Don Houghton, pilots Finley Fraser and Bert Suarez, Mates Bobby Heyn and Troy C. Delaney.

judy | October 27, 2005

Natchez passed Lawrenceburg

Report from Christopher Wirtjes: Spoke with Capt. Don this morning as they passed Lawrenceburg IN. at 5:15am. I am CE on the Argosy riverboat casino, worked with Cap. Don and all the rest many years ago. Anyways when they passed they they were all lit up and blew me whistles! What a sight for sore eyes! Will be seeing them soon as I’m doing the race on Sun. and Lunch with my daughter on Mon. Her whistle sounded so good. A beauty. Thanks to Capt. Don Houghton and her crew. My hats off to you.

franzneumeier | October 27, 2005

Boat passed Lamb

Steve Huffman reports: Natchez just passed our landing at 10:20 pm. That was more than an hour later than I expected. We currently have some increased flow from all the rain a couple of days ago, and we’re at the peak of that right here. My guess is that the Natchez is doing 7 or 8 mph in this flow, unless she stopped somewhere between Louisville and Madison. No doubt she will make better time above Markland.

franzneumeier | October 27, 2005

In uncharted waters now

Louisville was as far as the Natchez ventured in 1982, so she’s now in totally new waters for her. While docked in Louisville, the crew zipped up to Joe’s Crab Shack for a meal. Capt. Don Houghton has found out he’s had a double whammy: his NOLA house near the lake was severely damaged by Katrina, and now news that Wilma banged up his fishing boat in Florida quite badly. These northern temperatures are quite unfamiliar to most of the native NOLA crew – Watchman Clarence Jordan usually has a winter coat on when it drops to 70 in NOLA, I hear he’s feeling rather frozen by now. Jim Reising posted a wonderful description of the Lady floating into Louisville. I’ve been privileged to watch her glide through the NOLA harbor for over 24 years, and the only things missing there were hills and beautiful scenery. Now the picture is complete, and I know our river buffs/photographers will be having a field day in these next couple of weeks capturing Alan’s work of art. Judy

judy | October 27, 2005

Photo at Louisville

Capt. Don just sent a picture from the Str. Natchez at the Louisville landing.

franzneumeier | October 26, 2005

Report from Loiusville

Jim Reising just reported from Louisville:

The NATCHEZ is in Louisville. She arrived at the Louisville wharf at 12:15. And what a sight she was coming under the L&I bridge and emerging from the canal. She glided past the BELLE and tied off just above the Clark Bridge. Capt. Kevin Mullen caught the head line and Capt. Alan Bates the stern line. A number of crew relatives were on hand to welcome the boat to the Derby City with special treats for their long absent mariners…..cases of White Castle’s famous hamburgers and more cases of the local brewer’s art.

I can’t begin to describe how wonderful the NATCHEZ looked. She is more than a steamboat, Alan Bates when he designed her created a piece of art. I know everyone wants to ride the boat, but also take some time to stand on the river bank and watch her go by, it’ll be a sight you will always remember.

The NATCHEZ is only staying in Louisville for a couple of hours, long enough for the crew to go to lunch with their families. They are running the boat at about 17 RPM’s and according to the crew she makes 11 mph in the deep water above the dams and slows to about 9 1/2 in the shallower water in the upper end of the pools.

I’d guess if she gets out of here by 3 then Barb and Steve you’ll probably see her about 7:30-8 this evening passing the BARBARA H. and Markland around 9:00-9:30 tonight, Cincy around 5-6 in the morning.

franzneumeier | October 26, 2005

Music to your ears

Travis has been setting up guest calliopists – regular player Debbie Fagnano has a church job in NOLA and so is not along. Travis will be tickling the ivories in Louisville after he finishes his DQ stint. Until Travis’ arrival, B of L Perfessor Emeritus Keith Norrington will be high atop the Natchez at the keyboard. I have a strong suspicion that Capt. Greg Menke just might make an appearance or two at the keyboard in Paducah, so river fans are in for a variety of styles from some well-known call-y -ope masters. Not to be forgotten is the wonderful music which will be provided by the Dukes of Dixieland. The Dukes are the longest continuing performing band in NOLA, (and the best), and they’ve been the Natchez’ house band since 1994. Passengers will be in for a real treat when they hear Dickie Taylor and the Dukes, and of course the lagniappe of the calliope concerts too. Judy

judy | October 26, 2005

Photo of Str. Natchez at Evansville

Capt. Don Houghton sent this picture from the Evansville dock yesterday, around 1:00pm Thanks Don!
By the way: It was really fun to watch the boat on the live video webcam there. And many thanks to the guys from the Courier Press for adjusting the camera for this event 🙂

franzneumeier | October 26, 2005

Natchez at Evansville Webcam!

Right now the Natchez can be seen on the Evansville webcam. Look at the stacks of the Natchez, they’re so low!

… and left at 1:20pm.

franzneumeier | October 25, 2005

Natchez heading for Evansville

Message from Kevin Mullen, Belle of Louisville: 12:00 noon Just talked with Captain Steve, Natchez passing under Henderson Bridge making about ten to eleven miles per hour. Stopping at Evansville to scout the landing next to the LST. Boat and crew doing well.

franzneumeier | October 25, 2005

On the Ohio River

The Natchez made Ohio River lock no. 53 today at 3:05pm. Locks and Dam 53 is approximately 11 miles upstream of Mound City, Illinois.

franzneumeier | October 24, 2005

Belle of Louisville Race

New information say that the Natchez/Belle of Louisville race will be on Wednesday Nov. 2. Boarding at 5:00PM, race trip 5:30-7:30 PM. Race will be one way up to 6 mile island and they will return together in a ‘parade’ lap. Tickets for the Belle will be $15, for the Natchez $25. This is not official yet, but seems very likely to me.

franzneumeier | October 23, 2005

Bald Eagle Sighting

Judy just sent an update: Sunday 9 AM – I spoke to Capt. Steve as they were at Mile 765 AHP. They were watching a bald eagle swoop around the boat. Earlier they had seen deer on shore. These are certainly new sites for many of the crew members. They stopped in Helena Arkansas yesterday afternoon for a couple of hours to take on water. As we spoke, they were approaching a tow which had grounded yesterday and closed the river. But they had just opened up the river so she was going to be able to proceed upriver. At this point, it looks like they’ll hit the Ohio sometime Monday morning. No other stops are planned, at this point anyway.

franzneumeier | October 23, 2005

Newspaper Coverage

Here are two articles from newspapers in Cincinnati about the River Relief Tour:
The Cincinnati Post: River race is part of storm relief tour (link no longer working)
Cincinnati Enquirer: New Orleans steamboat stops here on relief tour (link no longer working)
And a press release from Tall Stacks: Steamboat Natchez Comes to Cincinnati (link no longer working)

franzneumeier | October 23, 2005

To Natchez in 31 hours

Here is news from the Natchez: Capt. Steve Nicoulin is standing forward watch with Pilot Bert Suarez; Capt. Don Houghton is paired with Pilot Finley Fraser. They are making 8 mph, and made it to Natchez in 31 hours. Everything is going well. Plans are being made ashore as they go. Chief Scotty is quite a Cajun chef, so I suspect they are having great food enroute.

franzneumeier | October 22, 2005

Natchez is underway

The NATCHEZ left Toulouse St. about 2 PM yesterday, Oct. 19th. She was loaded with fuel and may not meet to stop enroute for any. They obviously cut 13 feet off the stacks, put the feathers back on, and he likes the look. Stacks would now reach about 62 ft above the waterline. The crew of 20 or so on now includes Capts. Steve Nicoulin and Don Houghton, Pilots Finley Fraser and Bert Suarez, Mates Bobby Heyn and Troy Delaney, watchmen, Deckhands, Chief Engineers Scotty Viegas and Juan Mendevil, oilers and firemen, and a Food & Beverage head.
Bon Voyage and Full Steam Ahead to the Str. Natchez.

franzneumeier | October 20, 2005

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

The Str. Natchez Hurricane River Relief Tour starts today, featuring The New Orleans STEAMBOAT NATCHEZ.
New Orleans’ own Dukes of Dixieland with New Orleans Vocalists Luther Kent & The Pfister Sisters, and from the PBS and Discovery Channel National Television Series, “Great Chefs® of New Orleans”: Chef Daniel Bonnot, Chef Willy Coln, Chef Rene Bajeaux, and many more!
Great River Relief Steamboat Races; Private Charters Available (1-800-233-2628 X 416,

natchez | October 18, 2005